Bruce Springsteen’s presence at the inmense SXSW Festival in Austin was felt since he arrived in the city on Wednesday. That day he made his first public appearance, when he came onstage to play with Alejandro Escovedo during his performance at the Austin Music Awards. Thursday was the Springsteen Day. In the morning he addressed his keynote for 50 minutes at the Austin Convention Center (see video), during which he offered his ideas and feelings on rock music, his own songs, his influences, his career and his conception of music. He spoke of the importance of Woody Guthrie and James Brown, the influence of punk on Darkness on the Edge of Town, his childhood and youth memories listening to pop radio, his idols (Roy Orbison, Bob Dylan, Elvis Presley) etc. He enlightened the audience with a few acoustic performances (snippets of “Backstreets,” “We Gotta Get Out of This Place” or “This Land is Your Land”), even showing how he copied the “Badlands” guitar riff directly from the Animals’ “Don ‘t Let Me Be Misunderstood” (of whom he said they were one of his biggest influences). A fascinating lecture worth watching and analyzing.
In the evening, with the entire E Street Band, Springsteen gave his second show of the tour, at the Moody Theatre, again before a small audience consisting. The concert was full of surprises: it began and ended with covers of Woody Guthrie (“I Ain’t Got No Home” and “This Land is Your Land”, respectively). The setlist was similar to the one at the Apollo in New York, without the soul medley, but adding “Seeds” and “The Ghost of Tom Joad” (with Tom Morello, who also played on “Jack of All Trades”). After the first set of encores (again with “Rocky Ground” -with Michelle Moore- and “Land of Hope and Dreams”), began the parade of special guests. The first was Jimmy Cliff (author of “Trapped”), who sang a handful of his own songs with Bruce and the E Street Band (“The Harder The Come”, “Time Will Tell” and “Many Rivers to Cross”). Jimmy and Bruce had previously played together in 1993 at a concert in Verona.
The second to appear was Eric Burdon, lead singer of the Animals, to sing a duet with Bruce on the extraordinary “We Gotta Get Out Of This Place”. It was followed by “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out” and finally “This Land is Your Land”, this time with a great cast of musicians on stage: Garland Jeffreys, Joe Ely, Alejandro Escovedo, The Low Anthem, Tom Morello, Eric Burdon and members of Arcade Fire.
Next Sunday the tour begins in Atlanta.